Vancouver Amnesty Film Festival
Forced to Drop Film
"Some degree of
threat to their
According to reports by Duncan Campbell of the Guardian(London), an
award-winnning documentary about Venezuelan president, Hugo
Chavez and the coup last year that briefly ousted him has become the
center of an international dispute. The film was pulled from the
Vancouver Amnesty International (AI)
film festival because Amnesty staff in Caracas said they feared for
their safety if it were shown.
The film, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, was made by two
Irish film makers, Kim Bartley and Donnacha O'Briain as they were
preparing a documentary about Mr Chavez, with his cooperation, before
the coup. In April of 2002 when the coup began, they found
themselves trapped inside the presidential palace as events unfolded.
They kept their cameras running to document this unique historical
Chavez was briefly removed from office by a military coup but
returned to power after 48 hours. The political situation was
then, and remains, no less highly polarised. The president as
portrayed by his opponents is a dangerous, anti-US communist, while
Chavez supporters see the opposition as the privileged seeking to
preserve their powers from the underprivileged.
The film portrays Mr Chavez in a sympathetic light and was shown on
the public television channel in Venezuela earlier this year and
has since been shown on television by RTE in Ireland and the BBC,
recently winning two prizes at the Grierson documentary awards in
Britain. In Venezuela, however, the owners of all the private
television channels remain opposed to Mr Chavez.
Last week, the film was in the line-up to be shown at the AI film
festival in Vancouver. However, the organising committee came under
pressure from Chavez opponents in Venezuela and eventually decided not
to show it.
According to John Tackaberry of AI the decision had been taken
only after Amnesty staff in Venezuela had said that, if it were shown,
it would present “some degree of threat to their physical safety”.
They told colleagues that, even if Amnesty ran a standard disclaimer,
AI would be associated with the film, thus endangering its staff.
Tackaberry said the withdrawal was not to do with the film's quality or
its politics, as Amnesty did not endorse any of the films at its
Other festivals due to show the film, and broadcasters who plan to show
it, have been urged not to do so, or to allow a right to reply.
The report cites a Venezuelan TV producer and engineer, Wolfgang
Schalk, as leading the campaign against the film because
the film presented a distorted version of events. Schalk claims
that after spending five months investigating the film he says “It
tells a nice story with 'true' images of a 'coup' from the inside. But
my 24 years of experience with TV, and a lifetime of living in
Venezuela, told me something was wrong."
Schalk put togther an ad hoc committee composed of a
general, a private television station news executive and a police chief
to investigate the film. He claimed it became clear that the producers
had "changed the order of the events to fit a story that
appeals to audiences."
An online petition was organised to complain about the film, which Mr
Schalk said did not meet the ethical standards of the BBC.
The film makers defend its accuracy, angered by the attempts to stop
the film from being shown. They state that "Our film presents a
perspective on the events of April 2002 which is different to the one
presented by the privately owned media in Venezuela,"
"Unfortunately, this perfectly legitimate decision by AI to protect the
safety of their workers has been distorted by some in order to claim
that AI dropped our documentary because of its content."